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Good Advice I actually Listened to!

March 27, 2012

My 1980's Power Blouse

Blogging from the beach in Cap Cana, Dominican Republic this morning – jealous?  It is gorgeous here and the R&R is definitely reinvigorating for a busy Spring season when I return.

But like any business owner today, I do have to stay in contact while away and was able to finalize the hiring of our new fashion intern for the next quarter.  You’ll hear more about her next week, but a comment from her advisor “… think it’s great that you are willing to take on a student at this very busy time in your business….”.   I had some wonderful (and not so wonderful) internship & early career opportunities that were influenced by some wonderful people who took a chance on me.  I got some wonderful advice from them, although some advice I took and I should not have, and vice versa – but that blog is for another day!

1. Be Consistent – This advice was given to me by a director of a software company I worked for during my 20’s.  He told me, “Jayne,  If you’re going to be a hard-ass, be a hard-ass 100% of the time. If you’re going to be a nice guy, be the nice guy 100% of the time. No one likes a manager who you don’t know what to expect from them day-to-day – so be consistent.”  He did then explain that this advice works for everything, even parenting – kids need to know what to expect from their parents. BTW  He was 100% hard-ass and was very influential in my early career – Thanks!  For better or for worse, people pretty much know where they stand with me.

2. Dress For Success – When I graduated from college in the mid ’80’s, everyone was instructed to wear the navy blue power suit with white blouse underneath, often with a large bow around the neck, I think meaning to be equivalent to a men’s tie.  (I was a finance major, perhaps other majors were more lax, but I recall seeing a lot of these suits at interviews.)  I bought my navy power suite & white blouse w/ bow and took off interviewing – once I got my first job, I never wore that uniform again.  I never understood why I needed to dress like everyone else and was very stubbornly sticking to my guns.  For the most part, this was fine – as I always looked professional.  However, as I rose the corporate ladder my boss, who was a generation older than me and fully embraced the corporate power suit, begged me to dust it off for a presentation to the board of directors.  I was the youngest manager at the firm by a good 10 years, and a woman to boot, and really the first time that this group of men were going to see me in action – she begged me to put on a suit.  So I swallowed my pride and donned the power suit, threw on some pearls and threw on some glasses.  It was a very successful presentation.  I reverted to my usual wardrobe the next day and met with them frequently afterwards – but sometimes you need to have the story be about the information and not you taking a stand.

3. Be willing to take a demotion to get your foot in the door.  This advice was from another boss who has held some pretty high positions in the IT industry, but was forced out of a previous job when a project failed under her watch and received quite a bit of bad press in the industry. She had previously managed a technology division and when I met her she was a project manager for an IT project at another company that I had just joined. Within 1 year, she proved the naysayers wrong and was once again leading a group of 1000 IT professionals.  I took this advice when I went back to work after the birth of my first child.  (I was fortunate to be living in Europe at the time and took a year off, the US needs better maternity laws.). But while I was away, my firm was taken over and so too my job (but thanks for the big cash payout!).  So I was interviewing after a year off, and thus followed her lead and took a lower job than I had before in the same industry and managed the same kind of career growth as my mentor.  So if you’re worth your salt, you will survive as you prove your value.

4.Swear sparingly – This advice came from one of the worse managers I had during my career, not even sure why he was telling me this, as back in the day I never swore.  (That was before I played tennis!)  Maybe he had only one bit of advice to give and he needed to say something to me during my annual review. But I did always think is was good advice, even though he swore more than anyone I knew at the time!

5. Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. OK  I never actually received this advice from a mentor, but these are words to live by provided to that great philosopher Dr Seuss.

Have a Smashing day and be on the lookout for my next blog – Advice I did take, but really wished I would have ignored them!

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